Para athletes will join their able-bodied teammates at the Grand Prix Finals for the first time this month in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Eight of the world’s top fighters in each weight category aim to become Para Taekwondo’s first Para Grand Prix Finals champions.
After a Paralympic Games, World Championships, and three Para Grands Prix over the last 15 months, some familiar names have already become Paris 2024 Paralympic medal favourites.
Here is a weight category-by-weight category look at the inaugural Para Grand Prix Finals.
Since moving to the new weight categories and ‘Super K44’ Sport Class in late 2021 two fighters have dominated the -58 kg category – Israel’s reigning world champion Asaf Yasur and Turkiye’s reigning European champion Ali Can Ozcan. The two met in the finals at two of the three Para Grands Prix this year, as well at last year’s world championships, with Yasur winning three titles to Ozcan’s one. The 2021 World Championship final between the rivals was 2021’s most entertaining fight, while their battle at the Manchester Para GP final could lay claim to that title for 2022. Other fighters to watch include France’s four-time world champion Bopha Kong, Uzbekistan’s Sanjarbek Mukhtorov, and Azerbaijan’s up-and-coming Sabir Zeynalov, who stunned Ozcan at the Paris Para GP to claim silver. All three medaled at two of the three Para GPs.
|Para Grand Prix Finals Seeding: -58 kg|
|1 – Asaf Yasur (ISR)||8 – Joel Martin Villalobos (ESP)|
|2 – Ali Can Ozcan (TUR)||7 – Mitsuya Tanaka (JPN)|
|3 – Bopha Kong (FRA)||6 – Sanjarbek Mukhtorov (UZB)|
|4 – Sabir Zeynalov (AZE)||5 – Fabricio Marques de Souza (BRA)|
|2022 Para Grand Prix Medal Table: -58 kg|
|Sofia||Ozcan – TUR||Yasur – ISR||Mukhtorov – UZB||Kong – FRA|
|Paris||Yasur – ISR||Zeynalov – AZE||Kong – FRA||Ozcan – TUR|
|Manchester||Yasur – ISR||Ozcan – TUR||Mukhtorov – UZB||Zeynalov – AZE|
It’s been quite the year for Turkiye’s Mahmut Bozteke. The Paralympic and World Championship bronze medalist is one of just four fighters with a perfect Para Grand Prix Series record, going a sparkling 9-0 against the -63 kg division’s best. To retain his ‘undisputed’ title, he’ll have to get by Brazil’s reigning Paralympic champion Nathan Torquato for the third time in four Para GPs this year, as well as Mongolia’s five-time reigning world champion Bolor-Erdene Ganbat, who has yet to win a Para GP. Also watch out for Italy’s Antonino Bossolo, who has two Para GP medals to go along with his 2021 World Championship silver.
|Para Grand Prix Finals Seeding: -63 kg|
|1 – Mahmut Bozteke (TUR)||8 – Osama Mohammed A Asiri (KSA)|
|2 – Nathan Torquato (BRA)||7 – Kudratjon Haydarov (UZB)|
|3 – Bolor-Erdene Ganbat (MGL)||6 – Saeid Sadeghianpour (IRI)|
|4 – Antonino Bossolo (ITA)||5 – Zukhriddin Tokhirov (UZB)|
|2022 Para Grand Prix Medal Table: -63 kg|
|Sofia||Bozteke – TUR||Torquato – BRA||Ganbat – MGL||Sadeghainpour – IRI|
|Paris||Bozteke – TUR||Torquato – BRA||Tokhirov – UZB||Bossolo – ITA|
|Manchester||Bozteke – TUR||Bossolo – ITA||Ganbat – MGL||Torquato – BRA|
It will be wide open in the -70 kg division Para Grand Prix Final with both Mexico’s reigning Paralympic champion Juan Diego Garcia Lopez and Iran’s reigning world champion Mehdi Pourrahnama not participating. That means that for the first time in the Para Grand Prix Series the -70 kg category will see a new champion, as Garcia Lopez was able to get by each opponent in the first three events. Watch for Turkiye’s top-seeded Fatih Celik, Azerbaijan’s Imamaddin Khalilov, and Japan’s Shunsuke Kudo, who have all won multiple Para GP medals in 2022, as well as Argentina’s Paralympic bronze medallist Juan Samorano.
|Para Grand Prix Finals Seeding: -70 kg|
|1 – Fatih Celik (TUR)||8 – Eyad Abdullah A Al Turayk (KSA)|
|2 – Imamaddin Khalilov (AZE)||7 – Javokhir Alikulov (UZB)|
|3 – Sunsuke Kudo (JPN)||6 – Shinebayar Batbayar (MGL)|
|4 – Maciej Kesicki (POL)||5 – Juan Samorano (ARG)|
|2022 Para Grand Prix Medal Table: -70 kg|
|Sofia||Garcia Lopez – MEX||Khalilov – AZE||Kudo – JPN||Batbayar – MGL|
|Paris||Garcia Lopez – MEX||Celik – TUR||Kudo – JPN||Khalilov – AZE|
|Manchester||Garcia Lopez – MEX||Khalilov – AZE||Kudo – JPN||Celik – TUR|
It looks to be a question of experienced veteran versus up-and-coming phenom in the -80 kg group. Kazakhstan’s No. 1-ranked Nurlan Dombayev will look to win his first Para Grand Prix Series event by getting by Uzbekistan’s Asad Toshtemirov, who has dropped just a single fight in the three Para GP events on his way to two gold medals and a bronze. Of course, Iran’s Alireza Bakht – who won the inaugural Para GP gold, and Great Britain’s European champion and World Championship runner-up Joe Lane will have other ideas.
|Para Grand Prix Finals Seeding: -80 kg|
|1 – Nurlan Dombayev (KAZ)||8 – Abdulaziz Aljaber (KSA)|
|2 – Joe Lane (GBR)||7 – Elliot Loonstra (ARU)|
|3 – Asad Toshtemirov (UZB)||6 – Abulfaz Abuzarli (AZE)|
|4 – Alireza Bakht (IRI)||5 – Luis Najera (MEX)|
|2022 Para Grand Prix Medal Table: -80 kg|
|Sofia||Bakht – IRI||Najera – MEX||Nechai – UKR||Toshtemirov – UZB|
|Paris||Toshtemirov – UZB||Dombayev – KAZ||Abuzarli – AZE||Spajic – SRB|
|Manchester||Toshtemirov – UZB||Dombayev – KAZ||Lane – GBR||Abuzarli – AZE|
The big story in the +80 kg division is that the USA’s ‘undisputed’ Para Grand Prix champion Evan Medell will not be participating. In his absence, we could see a repeat of the nail-biting 2021 World Championship final between Iran’s Hamed Haghshenas and Croatia’s Mikulic. Haghshenas won his first world championship by edging the 2015 world champion and Tokyo 2020 Paralympic runner-up by superiority. Kazakhstan’s Paralympian Nyshan Omirali also looks for a strong end to the season after nearly stunning Medell in the Manchester Para GP final.
|Para Grand Prix Finals Seeding: +80 kg
|1 – Ivan Mikulic (CRO)||8 – David Makadze (GEO)|
|2 – Mehmet Sami Sarac (TUR)||7 – Tomasz Rozniatowski (POL)|
|3 – Hamed Haghshenas (IRI)||6 – Chikara Ito (JPN)|
|4 – Nyshan Omirali (KAZ)||5 – Pedro Neves Da Silva (BRA)|
|2022 Para Grand Prix Medal Table: +80 kg|
|Sofia||Medell – USA||Mikulic – CRO||Sami Sarac – TUR||Omirali – KAZ|
|Paris||Medell – USA||Mikulic – CRO||Sami Sarac – TUR||Omirali – KAZ|
|Manchester||Medell – USA||Omirali – KAZ||Neves Da Silva – BRA||Sami Sarac – TUR|
It’s anyone’s guess who will be named the -47 kg Para Grand Prix champion in the most competitive women’s weight category. Three different fighters have already won Para Grand Prix gold and with Peru’s Paralympic champion Angelica Espinoza and Thailand’s two-time reigning world champion Khwansuda Phuangkitcha out, it should be a wild ride to Para Grand Prix Final gold. Mexico’s resurgent Claudia Romero and Mongolia’s 2017 world champion Enkhtuya Khurelbaatar look to have the edge after winning gold at the Manchester and Paris Para GPs, respectively. But don’t count out Ukraine’s six-time world champion Vika Marchuk, Uzbekistan’s Paralympian Ziyadakhon Isakova, or Turkiye’s Nurcihan Ekinci either, as all have won multiple Para GP medals already. Tokyo 2020 star Zakia Khodadadi will also attempt to become the first refugee athlete to win a Grand Prix Finals medal.
|Para Grand Prix Finals Seeding: -47 kg
|1 – Claudia Romero (MEX)||8 – Naoual Laarif (MAR)|
|2 – Enkhtuya Khurelbaatar (MGL)||7 – Zakia Khodadadi (RTA)|
|3 – Nurcihan Ekinci (TUR)||6 – Maryam Deroei (IRI)|
|4 – Ziyadakhon Isakova (UZB)||5 – Vika Marchuk (UKR)|
|2022 Para Grand Prix Medal Table: -47 kg|
|Sofia||Phuangkitcha – THA||Khurelbaatar – MGL||Isakova – UZB||Khodadadi – RTA|
|Paris||Khurelbaatar – MGL||Romero – MEX||Marchuk – UKR||Ekinci – TUR|
|Manchester||Romero – MEX||Isakova – UZB||Marchuk – UKR||Ekinci – TUR|
It’s been a year to remember for Turkey’s Paralympic runner-up Meryem Cavdar. The two-time European champion remains the last “undisputed” Para Grand Prix champion after winning gold at all three -52 kg events. She’ll have to watch out for Mexico’s resurgent Jessica Garcia, who won silver at all three Grands Prix but managed to get by the Turkish superstar in the European championship final earlier this year. Other fighters to watch include the Brazilian pair of Maria Machado Stumpf and Christhiane Nascimento, who have a combined five Para Grand Prix bronze medals between them, Egypt’s Paralympian Salma Ali, and Nepal’s Asian Youth Para Games runner-up Shrijana Ghising.
|Para Grand Prix Finals Seeding: -52 kg
|1 – Meryem Cavdar (TUR)|
|2 – Jessica Garcia (MEX)||7 – Shrijana Ghising (NEP)|
|3 – Christhiane Nascimento (BRA)||6 – Lia Chachibaia (GEO)|
|4 – Maria Machado Stumpf (BRA)||5 – Salma Ali (EGY)|
|2022 Para Grand Prix Medal Table: -52 kg|
|Sofia||Cavdar – TUR||Garcia – MEX||Ali – EGY||Nascimento – BRA|
|Paris||Cavdar – TUR||Garcia – MEX||Stumpf – BRA||Nascimento – BRA|
|Manchester||Cavdar – TUR||Garcia – MEX||Stumpf – BRA||Nascimento – BRA|
It’s a two-headed race at the top of the -57 kg weight category, with everyone looking to catch up to Brazil’s reigning world champion Silvana Cardoso and Turkey’s reigning European champion Gamze Gurdal. The pair met at the 2021 World Championship final and all three Para Grands Prix, with Paralympic bronze medalist Cardoso winning three of the four events. A pair of Paralympians finished alongside them on every podium, including Kazakhstan’s Kamilya Dosmalova and Serbia’s Marija Micev. Looking to make her first mark in the Para Grand Prix Series will be Nepal’s Paralympian Palesha Goverdhan, who won gold at last year’s Asian Youth Para Games.
|Para Grand Prix Finals Seeding: -57 kg
|1 – Silvana Cardoso (BRA)|
|2 – Gamze Gurdal (TUR)|
|3 – Kamilya Dosmalova (KAZ)||6 – Roza Ebrahimi (IRI)|
|4 – Marija Micev (SRB)||5 – Palesha Goverdhan (NEP)|
|2022 Para Grand Prix Medal Table: -57 kg|
|Sofia||Cardoso – BRA||Gurdal – TUR||Micev – SRB||Dosmalova – KAZ|
|Paris||Gurdal – TUR||Cardoso – BRA||Dosmalova – KAZ||Micev – SRB|
|Manchester||Cardoso – BRA||Gurdal – TUR||Micev – SRB||Dosmalova – KAZ|
Consistency remains elusive in the difficult-to-predict -65 kg weight category. The division sports three separate Para Grand Prix Series gold medalists, as well as separate reigning Paralympic and world champions. It’s been an uncharacteristic year for Denmark’s legendary Paralympic champion Lisa Gjessing, who failed to win gold at any Para Grand Prix. The same can be said for Turkey’s reigning world champion and No. 1-ranked Secil Er. In their place, Great Britain’s European champion Beth Munro, as well as newcomers Ana Carolina Silva de Moura (Brazil) and Djelika Diallo (France) have stepped up. Ukraine’s Yuliya Lypetska, who added a Para GP bronze to her 2021 world championship bronze medal, and Iran’s difficult-to-beat Rayehe Shahab will also look to become the latest -65 kg champion.
|Para Grand Prix Finals Seeding: -65 kg
|1 – Secil Er (TUR)||8 – Rayehe Shahab (IRI)|
|2 – Lisa Gjessing (DEN)||7 – Djelika Diallo (FRA)|
|3 – Beth Munro (GBR)||6 – Yuliya Lypetska (UKR)|
|4 – Ana Carolina Silva de Moura (BRA)||5 – Leylianne Ramos (BRA)|
|2022 Para Grand Prix Medal Table: -65 kg|
|Sofia||Diallo – FRA||Munro – GBR||Lypetska – UKR||Er – TUR|
|Paris||Silva de Moura – BRA||Gjessing – DEN||Diallo – FRA||Munro – GBR|
|Manchester||Munro – GBR||Gjessing – DEN||Ramos – BRA||Silva de Moura – BRA|
Few fighters have had a run quite like Uzbekistan’s Guljonoy Naimova. She has been practically unbeatable since winning gold at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics last year, adding her first world championship, Asian and European championships, and a WT President’s Cup (Asia) gold, and two Para Grand Prix titles. In fact, her only blemish over the last two years was to Spain’s up-and-coming Dalia Santiago at the Paris Para Grand Prix final. A pair of former world champions will look to climb back on top in Riyadh, with Brazil’s 2019 world champion Debora Menezes and Great Britain’s 2017 world champion Amy Truesdale both looking for their first Para GP titles to go along with the silver and bronze medals they won at Tokyo 2020, respectively.
|Para Grand Prix Finals Seeding: +65 kg
|1 – Guljonoy Naimova (UZB)||8 – Fernanda Vargas (MEX)|
|2 – Debora Menezes (BRA)||7 – Nisa Nur Gurses (TUR)|
|3 – Amy Truesdale (GBR)||6 – Camila Macedo (BRA)|
|4 – Dalia Santiago (ESP)||5 – Jelena Rasic (SRB)|
|2022 Para Grand Prix Medal Table: +65 kg|
|Sofia||Naimova – UZB||Truesdale – GBR||Santiago – ESP||Rasic – SRB|
|Paris||Santiago – ESP||Naimova – UZB||Rasic – SRB||Menezes – BRA|
|Manchester||Naimova – UZB||Truesdale – GBR||Santiago – ESP||Menezes – BRA|